Alas, the snowstorm missed the Sault. I was watching the radar, and the storm did one of those fancy moves where it creates a pocket of nothingness in the middle of its gigantic self. No foot of snow meant that all the little children went grudgingly to school this morning. Ours drug their feet through the new inches (1-2-3? I don't really know. I've never been great at estimating measurements), letting the last of their dreamy snow day dreams melt away. I suspect a few teachers (bless 'em) were dragging their feet as well. We were all hoping for a snow day. It makes me chuckle to think that here we are surrounded by more snow than any other place we've ever lived, and not a snow day to be seen all school year. People don't stop up here for anything, and I kind of love that. This morning I was ogling the fresh, light snow thinking of course winter is depressing everywhere else. Winter in the Upper Peninsula is a sight to behold. Watching snowflakes fall never gets old. Until April.
Some feedback on Fierce Solidarity has been trickling in, and what I'm hearing right now is that it's beautiful, but hard. That's what the work felt like. There wasn't a day I worked on Fierce without tears in my eyes at some point. It never got easier. I'd get up and pace the house and listen to music and cry my heart out. Then I'd get back to it. Reading it won't be any easier for people who've lived through anything close to the stories in this book. There were moments, though, during the writing that I had to pace the house because the hope was too powerful to sit through. I'd pace the house and listen to music and cry my heart out. Then I'd get back to it.
Writing this book was an exercise in bearing pain and hope. It's only natural that the reading would be similar for the sensitive hearts out there. The good news is that the book ends with big hope, and big purpose. So, please don't give up on your way to the conclusion. The hard pockets are temporary and interlaced with gems and jewels of soothing goodness. It doesn't hurt to take a mindless breather every now and again. These things aren't meant to be done in a day.
On that note, I'm off to tick another item off the Flowchart of Action, so I can feel accomplished at the end of the day.
I've been sitting here, as usual, at my table by the window clacking away on the keyboard. It's freakishly still outdoors. One of the first things I realized about Sault Ste Marie is that there is nearly always wind. The winds vary from monstrous gales to pleasant breezes and everything in between. Still trees were something I quickly began to find odd after we moved here. There's barely a quiver in the branches around our house today, though. All's still, except for the ravens swooping by every now and again. It's an expectant stillness.
The storm that has been raging across the U.S. is heading our way. Soon I'll go fetch the girls and we'll be wrapped up tight for the night, and this reminds me of our earlier days. Back when the gratitude soared high over things like electricity and 500 square feet of living space paid for by sweeping halls and washing windows. Five hundred square feet has a way of feeling exuberantly cozy and manageable. Though money was tight, life was simple, and so much time was free. I think I'd find it unbearable to look back if we hadn't enjoyed ourselves so thoroughly and squeezed every ounce of life out of those years. Everything we wanted to be then we are now. On top of that, we're still cozy, and we're learning how to funnel the busyness into its appropriate pockets of the day.
I've always imagined that on days like this, when the little birds are tucked away, that they're sitting somewhere all serene and cozy. It's sweet to imagine, but I'm wondering why I've always imagined things this way. Maybe the birds are panicking on the inside. Maybe they're too afraid to speak or move. I've been in that state so many times. It's my go to pose when anxiety strikes: hold my breath, and don't move a muscle. Wait for the blow. Conserve all the energy for survival, even if, unlike birds bracing for a winter storm, the threat is far from life threatening.
A while back I was talking to someone who said one of her go-to phrases is be like the raven. Ravens don't panic she said. They stay alert, and calm. They move away from danger and watch it pass, and then they go on with their business. It's a good method. Alert. Calm. Aware. Easier said than done, but a good practice for anyone that struggles with anxiety.
Side note: Earlier today, while I was warming up chili on the stove, I thought I saw a wild turkey bobbing it's head on top of our neighbor's house. This would have been more likely (but still odd) in Almont, where we used to live. I once ran for my life (carrying art supplies and a 3 year old) from a mother turkey protecting her baby at Camp Skyline, the lovely wooded camp near Almont. Unfortunately, today's head bobbing turkey was actually a raven pacing on a dish. The lace in the window was obscuring the view.
Anyway. Alert. Calm. Aware. This is what I'm aiming for as Fierce makes its way out into the world and I get better acquainted with the business side of writing and publishing. I think the calm before the storm of Fierce was had in those early years of soaking in the life I was building on purpose. Back then all the energy was going to survival. We instinctively laid low and soaked up all the goodness. These days, life gives and asks for more. Naturally, adaptation is in order, and this particular learning curve has been just a tad clunky. Fortunately, one day at a time is as fast as anything can go.
Sitting here, writing like old times, this little house is getting woven in with our used to be homes. Old memories don't feel so far away, and breathing is easier right this second. And where else is there to be that's real?
Alert. Calm. Aware. I'm feeling it.
Last week, Fierce Solidarity was published. The anxiety of publishing a book is fairly specific, and I'm not even going to try to explain it. What I will say is that this book is exactly what I intended to write. Four years ago I had a vision of a book that would be accessible, heart-driven, and grounded. It would act as a window to the real possibilities of relationship abuse for those who had not been exposed, it would shed some light on practical ways to prevent long term relationship abuse, and it would offer some gentleness and healing to those who have already suffered. It would be a beginning woman book. A resting spot on the way toward womanhood where teens and young women could arm themselves with some knowledge and encouragement for the journey ahead.
I set some firm boundaries at the outset. I was only going to write what my experience has informed, and I wasn't going to hold any worthwhile truth back. I was not going to ask for permission from anyone. I would not be swayed from my original vision. I was not going to rely on research, which is worthy, needed, and useful, but really can only take us so far. The researchers have been standing up and speaking out, and so have the writers of memoirs, the counselors, the mental health professionals. And yet, the statistics are still ugly as ever.
There was a gap that I felt rather than saw. I did, literally, no research at the beginning of this project. I didn't look to see if something like Fierce was already out there. I just started gathering stories and writing. Later, I was encouraged to look at the field. There are multitudes of books on relationship violence. Scads. Hoards. Masses. Most of them are written by people who are far more educated than I. Most of these people have counseled countless families and individuals in crisis. I read a few. They confirmed that I was sniffing out the right trail. Their value was real, but still, Fierce was gnawing me from the inside out. I had to get it out of me. Also gnawing was the thought that the books I read would not reach the most at risk population: teens and the youngest women.
Some books that are geared toward the same audience as Fierce have been brought to my attention. But, seriously, a handful of books directed toward the most at risk population in a sea of books on relationship violence? We need more.
I'm so proud to have added my voice to the mix. I hope many, many other writers will do so as well. No one speaks in a way that reaches all people, so the more of us there are, the better.
The first purchased copies of Fierce are landing on doorsteps today. The work is just beginning, and I could not be more hopeful that someone, somewhere will be well served by this book.